United States regulators have given approval for Elon Musk’s start-up Neuralink to test its brain implants on people.
Neuralink said on Thursday that it received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the first human clinical study of implants which are intended to let the brain interface directly with computers.
“We are excited to share that we have received the FDA’s approval to launch our first-in-human clinical study,” Neuralink said in a post on Twitter – which is owned by Musk.
Neuralink prototypes, which are the size of a coin, have so far been implanted in the skulls of monkeys, demonstrations by the startup showed.
With the help of a surgical robot, a piece of the skull is replaced with a Neuralink disk, and its wispy wires are strategically inserted into the brain, an early demonstration showed.
The disk registers nerve activity, relaying the information via a common Bluetooth wireless signal to a device such as a smartphone, according to Musk.
“It actually fits quite nicely in your skull,” Musk said during a prior presentation.
“It could be under your hair and you wouldn’t know.”
At a previous presentation, Neuralink showed several monkeys “playing” basic video games or moving a cursor on a screen through their Neuralink implant.
The technology has also been tested in pigs.
Recruitment for a clinical trial with humans is not yet open, according to Neuralink.
Musk, who recently established a business devoted to developing sophisticated artificial intelligence, has contended that synching minds with machines is vital if people are going to avoid being outpaced by AI.
Experts and academics remain cautious about his vision of symbiotically merging minds with super-powered computing.